Croatia aligns its constitution with EU

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As Croatia edges closer towards EU accession, its parliament adopted yesterday (16 June) amendments to the constitution to bring it in line with EU requirements, the local press reports.

Parliament adopted by an overwhelming majority of 131 votes for and four against the constitutional changes, as proposed by the government of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Croatian press agency Hina reported.

As the country's Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor stated before the vote, the constitutional changes would pave the way for passing of the remaining 14 laws necessary for completing the country's EU accession talks.

One amendment would allow the extradition of Croatian citizens to other countries, meaning that the European Arrest Warrant can enter into force as soon as Croatia joins the EU. Once issued by a member state, the warrant requires another member state to arrest and extradite a suspected or convicted criminal.

The government also wants a provision requiring the Croatian president to define the structure and remit of the Office of the President, which cooperates with the government's various departments on issues of national interest.

Kosor said the draft amendment was agreed with current President Ivo Josipovic and was therefore completely transparent, according to Hina.

More voting rights for 'small minorities'

Along with changes to the constitution, the Croatian parliament will also consider this week a government proposal to change the country's Constitutional Law on the Rights of National Minorities.

The government has proposed that people from so-called 'small minorities' – which make up around 1.5% of the population – be granted additional voting rights in accordance with the principle of positive discrimination, meaning they would elect five MPs.

Furthermore, members of the Serb ethnic minority – who constitute around 4.5% of the population – will be guaranteed three seats in the Croatian parliament.

A further change concerns restrictions on voting rights for Croatians living outside the country, an issue which nationalist parties were vehement about. In the future, Croatians abroad may only cast votes in the country's diplomatic facilities, DPA reported.

This especially applies to Bosnian-Croatians who until now had organised their own voting stations abroad.

"Croatia exercises through its Constitution, Constitutional Law on the Rights of the National Minorities and other legislation, as well as in practice, a high degree of promotion of human and minority rights," said Kosor, as quoted by Hina.

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